Airbnb is a wonderful thing. You can make money simply by not being at home. Well, obviously other people need to be there for the money thing to happen. The downside is that you then have to be somewhere else. So I continue to lie low in Cape Town while Special Agent Banks deals with those who would abuse my North Coast home as they would their own.
He let the last batch in this week. He even helped carry their bags into the house, which will no doubt be listed under ‘additional services’ when the mercenary bastard invoices me. He said that when he introduced himself to the wife, she refused his hand on the grounds that it was against her religion. He said the husband was wearing some sort of a cap. Special Agent Banks is not an expert on world religions. Surfing, yes. And other things. But not religion. All he knew, he said, was that they had brought a suitcase with their own special food and she wouldn’t shake his hand. He said they might have been Arabs. Pressed further, he said they might have been Jews. He made it clear that further speculation on his part would be invoiced as ‘additional information’.
It mattered little to me. As long as they didn’t hurt the monkeys, fire nerve gas at the neighbours or offer human sacrifices to whatever gods they believed in, they could do whatever the hell they wanted. That’s the Airbnb credo. It’s all about the money, honey.
Special Agent Banks has been dealing with a series of guests since early December. He says he’s had enough. One family from “somewhere foreign” complained that the fridge was too small. There were six of them. I live alone. The fridge I have is big enough for two ready meals and nine six-packs. It’s fine.
Another guest said she had spotted a cockroach. In Durban? Surely not. Just one? They usually move in packs and have been seen carrying small children down the street at night.
Apparently I am not leaving Cape Town any time soon. This is the problem with Airbnb. Just when you’re about to come home, someone emails to say they want to stay in your house. I suppose I could just say no. But this is literally free money. Besides, ‘no’ is one of my least favourite words.
In keeping with my New Year’s resolution, I went for a walk on Constantia something-or-other. The next morning I woke up with an ankle swollen to the size of a prostitute’s thigh and I could barely walk at all. I am bitterly disappointed with my body. One resolution. To use my legs for something more strenuous than simply operating the brake, clutch and accelerator pedals. And, obviously, walking from the couch to the fridge and back. It couldn’t even handle that one, easy task. Stupid body. I shall take it out at once and abuse it viciously. That will teach it.
On my way to punish my body, I stopped off at a doctor with whom I had made an appointment. I limped heavily through the doors, prepared to settle for nothing less than amputation or death. Some men are comfortable with the hobbling image. I am not. I stride. I swagger. Sometimes I stagger. But only wimps limp. Wimps and gimps.
The receptionist’s dead eyes drifted to my ankle and back to her appointment book. I noticed an imperceptible shake of her ridiculous head. My handicap was all that prevented me from vaulting the counter and biting her in her tight, judgemental face. I can understand that people who work for doctors must see terrible things at this time of year, but it’s not as if I had burst in off my nut on crystal meth with a chopper embedded in my skull demanding to put a million on number three in the seventh race.
The doctor, who looked as if his Bar Mitzvah was due next weekend, had an implausible name which I shan’t reveal here because that would constitute advertising and I’m not sure he should even be allowed to practice.
Almost immediately he asked me to lie down. “Shouldn’t you take me out for dinner first?” I said. He blinked once, then regained his composure. It was probably the wrong thing to say, given that my toenails were painted a delicate shade of blue. Long story. Even longer night.
I told him about my walk. He wanted details and I was quite proud to recount that I had covered approximately one kilometre. He seemed unimpressed. I assured him I had kept myself well hydrated at the rate of one beer per hundred metres. This is apparently the international standard.
He prodded my ankle twice. “Gout,” he said. I was outraged. How can a walk bring on gout? I am an athlete. People who walk don’t get gout. They have chauffeurs. Overweight, indolent capitalist pigs who can’t control their food and alcohol intake get gout. Oh, right.
He told me to present my buttocks for an injection. I could suffer no further indignities. My reputation as an athlete was in tatters. He might as well do whatever he wished with my buttocks. As it turned out, my underwear was also in tatters.
He said gout was genetic but I could see he was lying through his perfect, capped teeth. Neither of my parents suffered from gout. Perhaps I inherited it from mad cousin George. I always thought I might have got a touch of his special brain. Turns out I got his gammy joints that attract uric acid like weed attracts sniffer dogs. Thanks, George.
If the diagnosis is accurate, and there is no reason to believe it is, then I have to say that I’m not entirely to blame. My holiday in Cape Town has turned into an episode of Survivor, where the contestants are given nothing but alcohol and are only allowed off the island to fetch more alcohol.
I spent a night with a friend who has a PhD and a drinking problem. She recently did time in one of those appalling 12-step facilities that succeed mainly in turning people into atheists. I helped find her a place after her parents threw her into the street when, after a few days of sobriety, she dismantled the wagon and sold the parts for beer. It was a room in a house being sub-let by an ex-coke fiend and his three-legged dog. A second room was occupied by a sprawling, unruly woman with two cats who subsisted on nothing but vodka and chocolate. The woman, not the cats. A third room was taken by what appeared to be a Nazi war criminal. Drunk cat woman has since been hospitalised, the ex-shnarf addict has hit on my friend, the Nazi brought a hooker home and the bed capsized in mid-coitus because it was balancing on four empty beer crates. I haven’t been back.
The island I’m on is in the Deep South. It’s an island in the sense that it is surrounded by lunatics. I have fallen in with a trio of beautiful but dangerous women and am starting to feel like Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick. I affectionately refer to them as “me bitches”. I don’t know what they call me.
At night I sleep in the bed of a 13-year-old boy. Without the boy, obviously. Just because I allegedly have gout doesn’t mean I am a beast, you know, although I do have fairly catholic tastes in other areas.
A dozen surfboards are stacked against my bedroom wall.
There are more in the lounge. And outside. These aren’t your average surfboards. These are designed for surfing waves of twenty foot and bigger. The owner is currently in Hawaii and I am staying with his girlfriend. I am on my best behaviour. Only a fool would tangle with a man who can hold his breath for three minutes in shark-infested waters after taking nine tons of water on the head. Also, she’s not that kind of girl.
Her not-married friend is tactile to the point of compulsion and her relentless platonic fondling has sent so many mixed messages to my brain that it regularly overheats and I have to lie down for a bit. Often spontaneously. The married friend … actually, let me not go there.
A few nights ago I moved into the deepest south, to a hamlet on the edge of nowhere. I was woken at 3am on my first morning by the landlady banging on my door shouting something about the mountain. I assumed she was having some sort of psychotic episode and went back to sleep. I woke three hours later to what sounded like the 101st Airborne Division coming in low over a village north of Saigon. Thanks to the previous evening’s events, my eyes looked dangerously Vietnamese. But they weren’t coming for me. Their sights were set on a wildfire raging out of control 100m from my bed.
My landlady is a voluntary firefighter – that’s where she was off to at 3am. She came home at 7am and went to work, returning at 6pm, upon which she climbed into her overalls and boots and prepared to set off for the fire line once again, her two-way radio crackling like a burning pig. She popped her head into the flatlet to see if I was okay. I was sitting at my laptop, shirtless, with a beer at my elbow, my boep around my knees and my moobs swaying gently in the breeze. I asked if there was anything I could do to help. She smiled and walked away.
As I write this, the road in and out has been closed. There is no escape. Even worse, there is no bottle store. This may be the end.